The Stormers scored three tries to claim a 28-3 victory over the Cheetahs in their clash at Newlands on Saturday.
There was no sense of helpmekaar, brotherly love or ubuntu in this match. A win would have ensured the Cheetahs of a place in the knock-out rounds but the Stormers, their compatriots, gave them no leeway at all. Instead of arriving at Newlands with heads up, jaws jutting and eyes sparkling in anticipation of greatness, the Cheetahs were pretty flat from the start. They actually led for a short while but not even that aroused their enthusiasm.
Even Willie le Roux, to many a magician come to save South African rugby, was flat and his team largely ignored what he did. The one who did not give up the fight was Heinrich Brüssow. He fought to the finish. Oh, and so did Robert Ebersohn as a defender, not as a creator of opportunities.
The Cheetahs' main attacking weapon seemed to be big Coenie Oosthuizen. They played him amongst the centres and he would trundle forward without presenting the Stormers even a modicum of threat. And as the clock moved on, so Oosthuizen's trundle became slower and of no consequence.
Yet it was not a game without intensity, because the Stormers were intense. And their quest for a (rare for them) bonus-point try kept the interest. You took your hat off to the zest of Siya Kolisi, Eben Etzebeth, Skarra Ntubeni and Damien de Allende - young men who make the future look rosy.
Both sides were better at defence than attack, but the Cheetahs always have the ability to score tries. On this Saturday night at Newlands they did not come close to even one. The Stormers defence was determined and watertight, tackling enthusiastic. And by and large their forwards did not intrude in back play.
Both sides were forced to make late changes. Hennie Daniller was deemed not fit enough to play and so Willie le Roux moved from right wing to fullback with Sarel Pretorius starting on the right wing. Tiaan Liebenberg withdrew from the Stormers and Ntubeni moved up from the bench to start with Martin Bezuidenhout on the bench.
The first sign of creativity in the match was a diagonal kick to the left by Elton Jantjies. That was early in the match. The second sign was late in the half when Jantjies kicked a diagonal to the right. In the first half Kolisi and Fourie burst ahead, De Allende made a break to set Bryan Habana darting for the line and Le Roux chipped. Those were the light moments.
When Fourie was penalised at a tackle, Riaan Smit goaled. When Oosthuizen was penalised at a scrum, Joe Pietersen goaled. Then just before half-time Pretorius was penalised for being offside. Pietersen kicked out for a five-metre line-out. Etzebeth caught the throw-in and the Stormers formed a maul. They drove it forward and Fourie plunged to ground for the try and so the Stormers led 10-3 at half-time.
The Cheetahs kicked far more often than usual in this match and in the beginning of the second half Jantjies kicked, mostly to Le Roux who kicked back.
Adriaan Strauss held man back who did not have the ball and Pietersen made it 13-3 after 49 minutes.
Fourie had the most exciting moment in the match up till then when he burst ahead and chipped over Le Roux. He scurried after the ball but Ebersohn dived and saved the situation with a mark.
Johann Sadie was penalised for being offside. 16-3 after 54 minutes.
The Cheetahs attacked but Kolisi won a turnover and then Smit missed from slap in front.
The Cheetahs' scrum was under great pressure. They could not clear and Martin Bezuidenhout flykicked towards the goal-line 40 metres away. Raymond Rhule carried over and the Stormers had a five-metre scrum far out on the right. They went left where Jantjies did a little step and then Louis Schreuder did a scissors with Kolisi and the energetic flank burst clean over for a try. 23-3 after 66 minutes,.
Five minutes later Rhule dropped a pass and Juan de Jongh snapped it up on the far right. He gave to Gerhard van den Heever. When he was tackled the Stormers moved the ball to the far left where De Allende drew two men and gave Habana a perfect pass. Habana sped past Oosthuizen for a try in the corner, his 55th Super Rugby try.
The Stormers tried for the bonus-point try and at the death they kicked a penalty for a five-metre line-out which went awry.
Man of the Match: Siya Kolisi, not for the first time. He is a no-nonsense player who lifts his attention to the ordinary the threshold of brilliance.
For the Stormers:
Tries: Fourie, Kolisi, Habana
Cons: Pietersen 2
Pens: Pietersen 3
For the Cheetahs:
Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Deon Fourie (captain), 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Juan Harris, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Ross Geldenhuys, 18 Gerbrandt Grobler, 19 Don Armand, 20 Dewaldt Duvenage, 21 Gary van Aswegen, 22 Gerhard van den Heever.
Cheetahs: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Sarel Pretorius, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Riaan Smit, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Pieter Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Rynhardt Landman, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Petrus Vermeulen, 19 Johannes Prinsloo, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Elgar Watts, 22 Howard Mnisi.
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman (South Africa), Marc van Zyl (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)